Don Cherry is all about one thing. That being Don Cherry. So, his virtuoso screed on Thursday's Hockey Night in Canada, in the first Coach's Corner of the season, will be a home run in his books.
Everyone's talking about Cherry calling men with substance-abuse problems "hypocrites" and "pukes." Extolling the pitiless head hits of Scott Stevens that ended Eric Lindros's career as the good ol' days. To say nothing of accusing Leafs and Canadiens players of "faking" hits to avoid suspensions.
Having had three months without an outlet for his fevered imagination, it was to be expected that the former NHL coach would want to get the spotlight back on his countenance.
So his debut had three priorities.
One, defending himself and the other NHL rockheads against allegations of complicity that cropped up this summer when former enforcers passed away.
Two, abusing league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for taking the crippling head hits on Eric Lindros out of the game.
Three, make it about him.
By those criteria, Cherry had a perfect night.
"The ones that I am really disgusted with ... are the bunch of pukes that fought before: Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson,"' will make his greatest-hits collection.
It will now be up to CBC to let us know if the summer's debates had any impact or if, after its own efforts at exposing the damage of head hits, the public broadcaster acts as though it's business as usual.
Does publicly accusing alcoholics as "hypocrites" get swept under the rug with "Don's an entertainer and as such we don't hold him to journalistic standards"? We can hardly wait to see whether CBC turtles again or has a new sheriff in town.
The Naked Truth on Kesler
When Usual Suspects was knee-high to a tired cliché, Saturday mornings brought a weekly picture of an NHL star in the Weekend Magazine. There was tension involved. Which star would pop up this week? One of our Red Wings such as Gordie Howe or Normie Ullman? Or perhaps a dreaded Maple Leaf like Carl Brewer. After rescuing the paper from the snowy step, we'd zoom to the back page of Weekend to see the featured performer in beautiful colour, hockey stick held like a knight of the realm. This heraldic form, at the time, seemed to essence of stardom.
This creaky boomer memory was brought to you thanks to the new edition of ESPN magazine. Inside the pages of the current Body Issue emerge photos of Ryan Kesler. The Vancouver Canucks forward isn't brandishing a hockey stick. Nor does he have gloves, skates or elbow pads. Kesler is stark naked, his rippling six-pack a cold slap in the face to all manhood wallowing in cellulite.
Kesler has company. A nude Hope Solo, goalie for the U.S. women's soccer team, casually brandishes a hose to water the lawn. Baseball star Jose Reyes is one strategically positioned shadow away from full-frontal. Speed skater Apolo Anton Ono strikes a skater's pose– if he'd forgotten his uniform and skates back in the dressing room. Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler demurely cups a breast and a board as she poses at Hollywood's famed Chateau Marmont. The muscles on NFL star Steven Jackson look ready to pop on his perch above the ocean.
And so on, through a cavalcade of hot bodies. In the day, we had a name for this kind of photography. We called it Playboy.
But downtown has now gone uptown, and the celebration of the body has migrated to magazines, where comely blondes who preferred walks on the beach have morphed into Ryan Kesler, who barely missed walking on Wreck Beach with the Stanley Cup this past June. It packs a sensory wallop. For those fans unfamiliar with just how fit hockey players are these days, the sight of Kesler/Adonis will probably be a revelation.
There are also no comments such as "likes a guy with a sense of humour" from the female athletes involved. All speak of being proud to present positive images and healthy lifestyles for women. Solo approached her shoot like a game performance. "I don't take it seriously being a sex symbol at all. … It shows how far we've come from the stick-thin models we see in other magazines," she says in a video of the shoot.
In a league where conformity rules, Kesler's cupcake pictorial has predictably become a subject of some hilarity. While Kesler knew what he was getting into, what about the Canucks discovering their (injured) star looking like Burt Reynolds on the bearskin rug just days before the season opener?
The Canucks say they were aware of the ESPN shoot. Having seen previous editions of the Body Issue they were pretty much resigned to seeing their star centre getting maximum exposure in the mag. But this being a new paradigm in sports, they're not about to kvetch over one of their star players drawing worldwide attention to the team. If we're going to see killer abs on a hockey player, better Kesler the Canuck than Phaneuf the Maple Leaf or Cammalleri the Canadien smiling sheepishly for the cameras. In the quest to make the Canucks a go-to franchise for players, it doesn't hurt to know that ESPN finds Vancouver players cool enough to get naked.
Is this any way to promote an 11th-place team? Have to wonder how the Toronto Maple Leafs feel about their radio outlet AM640, which has been reduced to game broadcasts and shoulder programming in the final year of its contract with the hockey team. One of the assets of being host broadcaster is access to team executives such as general manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson for interviews on profitable morning drive shows.
But it appears that the John Oakley Show isn't regularly booking the Leafs honchos to chat up all things blue-and-white. Ditto the afternoon Arlene Bynon drive show. Judging by the Toronto dressing room this week, that makes AM640 the only media outlet in town not cranking up its Leafs coverage. Most days it looks like a computer generated scene from Braveheart as scribes jostle for the chance to quiz David Steckel or Matt Frattin.
Which begs the question, who will get the Leafs radio rights when they're finally put up for auction? As with everything else at team owner Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, that hinges on the possible sale of the majority interest in the company. Should Rogers buy into the club, it's almost a slam dunk they'd get the radio rights for Sportsnet The Fan 590 (although The Fan would have major logistical problems fitting Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays together in overlapping seasons).
Should another party buy MLSE or should the current owner Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan decide to continue, that would open it up for TSN Radio to buy that piece of the market following the NHL club. At what cost? AM640 could never crack a 4.5 rating against The Fan while it controlled the radio rights so they might not be as lucrative as some believe. Unless the MLSE sale gets traction soon, don't expect much action on the rights before the end of the year.